The Definitive Guide to the Best Bookshops in London
London is a literary city, and as you might expect, has some deeply historic book stores - enjoy our rundown of the best, and places to stay nearby
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Whether you’re hoping to meet a Hugh Grant in a travel bookshop, or you want to explore the literary history of the city from the safety of a bookshop, here’s a rundown of some of the best bookshops in London.
There are few better ways to spend a leisurely afternoon in London than by losing yourself in one of the many (many) London bookstores. Our city has an abundance of bookshop options to satisfy even the most demanding bookworm. So, where do you start your book browsing expedition in a city brimming with books waiting to be read? Read on (no pun intended) for our selection of the best bookstores in London.
London Bookshop: Foyles Charing Cross Road
Let’s kick off with the flagship store of Foyles in Charing Cross - arguably the most iconic bookshop in London.
Any lover of literature will enter to find themselves instantly transported to a 5-floor reader’s paradise. With around 50 departments and more than 200,000 titles covering practically every topic of under the sun, we’re fairly sure any browsing efforts won’t be in vain. Be warned though, it’s easy to get lost amongst the vast labyrinth of overflowing shelves here. Not that it’s the worst place in London to lose yourself. In fact, we’d highly recommend it.
There are often great readings and talks held on in the event space on the top floor. Look out for the event listings, and you might well spot some of your favourite authors.
What you’ll find here: Oodles of space to wander, an abundance of choice, and fairly decent coffee for a mid-browse brew.
Moving on from one mammoth London bookstore to another. If you like choice when it comes to browsing for books, look no further. The Waterstones in Piccadilly Circus is the largest bookshop in the whole of Europe. It towers over the Foyles in Charing Cross with a grand total of 8 floors brimming with books. Their events page is also worth keeping an eye on, as they frequently hold talks and readings from a host of famous names.
What you’ll find here: Fellow bookworms, pretty much every English language book ever written, and a jam packed events calendar.
London Bookshop: Hatchards
Looking for a London bookstore with an impressive 220 year history? We bring you Hatchards, the oldest bookshop in London dating back to 1797. Just the fact that literary legends such as Lord Byron and Oscar Wilde used to haunt its halls may be reason enough for any bookworm to gravitate towards it. But it’s not just about the history here. Hatchards has an impressive offering of over 100,000 titles to discover and some superbly knowledgeable staff members. And though it definitely isn’t small by any means, the atmosphere is decidedly intimate and retains its old world character.
For a quintessentially British afternoon, head to the Fortnum & Mason next door after to leaf through any book purchases over a cup of traditional English brew.
What you’ll find here: The drifting spirits of legendary English writers, expert staff, and an old school charm.
Independent and Alternative Bookshops in London
For those of you seeking travel books in London, head straight to the very lovely Daunt Books in Marylebone. We can’t promise you Hugh Grant here, but we can promise that you’ll fall a little bit in love with this utterly charming bookstore. Housed in an Edwardian building and featuring sweeping oak galleries, prepare to linger longer than planned. Bold statement, but here at Plum we think this may just be the prettiest bookshop in London. It’s easy to navigate as well, with all the books neatly arranged by country. March to your destination of choice (if you know it) and find an abundance of useful information on it in one place.
Though Daunt Books have become most well known for their travel selection, they also stock a fair few titles on various other topics. And you can tell the staff clearly love what they do. We’re not at all envious of all the time they get to spend here...
What you’ll find here: Travel literature on every country under the sun, stained glass windows, and canvas bags.
London Bookshop: Word on the Water
It’s a bookshop on water. A floating bookshop. Need we say more?
Alright, we’ll tell you a little more. Word on the Water is a unique London bookstore located on a 100 year old barge docked at Regent’s Canal near Kings Cross. Inside you’ll find an actual wood burning stove next to a cosy leather armchair, and books neatly lodged into every nook and cranny of the barge. There’s an eclectic mix of old and new books on offer here, and they also host poetry slams and occasional jazz nights on the roof. Though they don’t have the space to stock a vast number of titles, Word on the Water is worth checking out for its unusual concept and uber chilled out vibes.
What you’ll find here: A varied selection of well priced books, and an assortment of friendly pets.
Second Hand, Rare and Used Books in London
Okay, technically this isn’t a book shop. But if you’re on a quest for second hand books in London, the Southbank Centre Book Market is where it’s at. This outdoor assortment of antique and second hand books is located outside the BFI in Southbank and open daily. There’s plenty more to explore in this area, if you can tear yourselves away from the tables upon tables stacked with book titles here.
What you’ll find here: A huge collection of second hand books and pretty riverside views.
Quinto & Francis Edwards Bookshop
For second hand (preloved?) books in London, make your way to Quinto Bookshop on Charing Cross Road. Stop for a moment to savour in that second hand book smell, and then head down to rummage through the vast collection of titles within the rustic vibes of its basement. The ground floor, known as Francis Edwards, is where you can find a host of rare and antique books if you’re looking to add to your collection.
What you’ll find here: Old books, new books, rare books, and deliciously musty vibes.